Lest We Forget

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“The lamps are going out all over Europe.”
– Edward Grey, August 1914.

One hundred years ago today Britain declared war on Germany and The Great War began. Civilians became heroes and signed up for service in the droves, driven by patriotism and assured that it would be over by Christmas. But it didn’t end until 11th November 1918 – more than four years of battle like never before; families, streets, colleagues wiped out together on foreign battlefields; the average survival of a private: 11 days. Ten million military personnel and seven million civilians died across both sides of the conflict.

And we’re urged to never forget those who died, those who survived, those whose lives were blown apart by the decisions of men around various tables.

And yet I did forget. I studied the origins of First World War as part of my university degree…and I remember nothing. I got good grades for my essay and exam too. But looking back through my notes this evening it could have been another person who took the course.

I feel awful.

But I’ve been touched tonight, not so much by the televised service from
Westminster Abbey, but by the stories of the ordinary people (now all gone) who gave up so much. Their experiences, their relationships, all that they saw and how the world changed because of them. I feel humbled.

And so I will strive to remember. I may not be so great with the dates and the facts and how events escalated so quickly. But I will strive to remember those stories and continue to pass our gratitude down to future generations.

Lest we forget.

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9 thoughts on “Lest We Forget”

  1. The reasons leading up to the declaration of the war were so complex, I am forever pulling out my history text and rereading it, although a recent BBC dramatisation made it a little clearer. My Grandfather (who I never met) apparently made light of his experiences on the Western Front, despit being gassed twice and suffering health problems for the rest of his life. This year I have been aquainting myself with the chemical warfare aspect of the whole business and have come to realise that his generation of young men were so stoic it brings me to tears at times. Here in Australia, the commemoration has started and will carry on for months, with school children reading out of the names of the 64,000 Aussies who died during that terrible war

    1. Everything about World War I is just so staggering, but nothing more than the stoicism of the men and women who went off to war. And the sheer scale is heartbreaking. What an awful way to resolve conflict, no matter how complex the reasons behind it.

  2. Thank you for this. Our city just happens to be the location of the only WWI museum in the U.S. and it’s totally amazing. My only complaint about it is that there’s a significant portion dedicated to the U.S. efforts, which came so terribly late. I’m much more interested in the European perspective. I don’t know what you like to read, but there’s an excellent book called “The Great Silence” I recommend to anyone interested in that time period. It’s an excellent history, with tons of details I’d not read before, both from the perspective of “big names” and from ordinary people. I came away from it profoundly affected. -Amy

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